|Let's be honest, this is probably what you are here for!|
First up, happy new year! Hope you've all had a great time!
It’s that time of the year again where I write myself a journal to summarise everything. As usual, the disclaimer is I type this out for my own purposes, so don’t expect others to necessarily read it. Though you are free to chip in and comment on anything I mention, or your own trials during 2014.
For much of this year I was finishing off the second half of my Master’s degree. Having picked up on the quirks, strengths and annoyances of the school in 2013, the next semester pretty much lived up to expectations. Undoubtedly the course taught me a lot but I didn’t necessarily enjoy large sections of it due to the fast pace. I found my strengths in sedimentology again and realised I probably am not engineer material (too many equations).
By summer the pressure eased off as the heat turned upwards. My student flat was stupidly warm and too oppressive to work in, so I took to writing almost all my dissertation in the department’s computer labs. At the peak of the heatwave I found a computer room at the top of the building which was almost always empty since non-postgrad students had gone home for summer by then. So I sat in there by the open window with my shoes off. Luckily I made good progress and deadlines were never an issue, apart from some pressure to produce an A0 sized poster of the project before I had worked out my conclusions properly.
Ultimately the course allowed me to get a place on a 3 week recruitment course with a data consultancy company in Wales. Again much hard work but was thrilled to get a job at the end of it! My start date was set for a long time away so in the meantime I’ve got a new car and have caught up on some pastimes I’ve not had as much time for this year (papercraft, airsoft and general paintings).
Come the new year I’ll be moving out to Wales for my job, where I hope to become settled over the next few months (my accommodation is not 100% ideal so I might try and find a property to share with people from the recent graduate intake at work). Excitement, possible awkwardness, and earning a proper wage for once are all on the cards!
Now for the list and reviews. As usual this refers to the best things I have experienced in 2014 but not necessarily released in this year.
I’ve picked up reading again so the book of the year goes to The Lancaster Men: The Aussie Heroes of Bomber Command. This was a present from Australian relatives and details the accounts of Australian RAF pilots and crew of Lancaster Bombers in WW2. Presented as gripping vignettes, the tense flights to Germany and France are told in a stark manner. Some stranger-than-fiction occurrences involve bombers being destroyed by bombs falling from aircraft above, and sinking the Battleship Tirpitz with 12000lb “Tallboys” (one of which pierced the entire ship before plunging into the seabed and exploding).
Other than that I’ve read Catastrophe 1914 Europe Goes to War, a very detailed if somewhat dry analysis of the beginning of WWI. Pleasingly it doesn’t try its hand at revisionism under a modern lens as many events must be understood through social attitudes and culture of the day. That’s not to say it doesn’t excuse the stubbornness and stupidity of certain key figures and the somewhat incompetent approach to tactics in the face of new technologies.
For fiction I’ve read a few more Sherlock Holmes stories (including the Valley of Fear novel) from my set that I’ve yet to finish. I got round to reading A Princess of Mars, the beginning of the swashbuckling sci-fi tales of John Carter but it wasn’t as good as I’d thought it might be. Carter is a bit of a Gary Stu and the world itself ends up sounding too convoluted and bizarre to function at all. A quick easy-read thrill ride but not much more.
For much of the year there were no new main releases that interested me. So I’ve been back to Fire Emblem Awakening, BioShock Infinite (plus DLC), Skyrim and Napoleon Total War with Darth Mod installed. Honourable mentions go to Octodad, Stronghold Crusader HD, Baldur’s Gate EE and Dishonored (especially the DLC; the main game felt a bit flat at the end).
I was thinking the game of the year might be the PC port of Valkyria Chronicles because for 2 weeks I was really absorbed in its multi genre mash up of a fictional dieselpunk WW2 setting. And despite my past prejudices didn’t particularly mind the anime side of things. But its plot just hiccupped right at the end in a way I didn’t like. The game is set in a very black and white morality, seen through the eyes of protagonist Welkin, an amiable if somewhat naive chap. So anything counter to his sparkly world view is automatically wrong, which isn’t a problem for most of the game but causes some annoyances for me at the end. Probably over-thinking it; I loved most of the gameplay and cheeky nods to real world vehicle, weapons and countries.
So in the end I may give the award to Super Smash Bros. on the 3DS/Wii U. The definitive edition? May well be at the moment! Considering I have kept playing Brawl at intervals ever since 2008, and I have a new sparring partner in the form of my cousin, this one could keep me busy for a long time.
The Lego Movie: Outright my film of the year. Exceeded all expectations to be a witty and hilarious romp from one of my favourite childhood toys. Everything is awesome!
Godzilla: SFX heavy, pretty competent.
The Amazing Spiderman 2: Ok superhero flick but needed about 30 mins chopping out.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Much better than I thought. Not a gamechanger by any means but quirky and funny.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Solidly made and gripping story. Asks the question: “Who is the real animal?”. Hint: it’s Man.
Fury: Brad Pitt and his Invinci-Sherman. War is hell and makes scumbags out of everyone. Actually very good for the most part. But then we get to the final act and it turns out war is in fact crazy awesome, and the SS forgot what Panzerfausts are for.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey [Blu Ray]: I watched The Desolation of Smaug first last year, so I needed to catch up on the first film. Charming LoTR lite, with interesting subplots acting as prequel material. ‘Cartoony’ in its designs and action sequences but on balance another good depiction of Middle Earth.
The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies: Promising start but very quickly oddities are flagged up. Bard, you can’t possibly fire a ballista bolt like that? A mixed bag of action and silliness with a philosophy of ‘if it looks cool, do it’. Although I liked the first two films, despite acknowledging their limitations, this one is far too self indulgent and Martin Freeman’s improv/bumbling acting style began to grate. Is Peter Jackson the new George Lucas?
Petroleum geologist and artistic dabbler from the north west of England and currently working in Wales.
I'm fascinated with historical military designs, particularly from about 1800-1920 and all the related themes that go with them. The Napoleonic and colonial eras up until WWI and the Interwar period are my favourite areas of inspiration. Aww who am I kidding, WW2 is also very interesting to read up on as well.
My drawn art is mix of dieselpunk military, real world history, characters from my fictional scenario, fantasy characters and fan art of whatever is on my mind at the time.
Besides that I design and build papercraft models using 3D data from games. I've worked on a whole bunch over the years from games on the N64, GC/Wii and PC. The templates are freely distributed in my gallery or over on my old blog. If you ever build any I'm always thrilled to see any pictures you might have! If you have any questions or need help, just ask through a comment or note!
Find me on Steam, the Wii U, and (rarely) Origin, as XenonRay.
Hyrule Papercraft Blog: hyrulepapercraft.blogspot.com
Tumblr (for what it's worth): xenonray.tumblr.com